Neff Tree graphic

Judge Neff Helped Build Home of Sod

Thursday, July 2 1955

(The following newspaper clipping did not include the name of the newspaper, but it probably was the local paper for McClusky, of Sheridan County, ND. It is retyped here exactly as written in my 1988 photocopy, including capitalization and punctuation. Keep in mind it was written for a northern U.S. 1955 audience. N. P. railroad is probably the Northern Pacific. I am not sure what ASC is.)

First of the Neffs to arrive in this area were Mr. and Mrs. August Neff, who migrated from Dinkel, Russia in 1898. Before taking a homestead Mr. Neff herded sheep for ranchers. They lived in a covered wagon where their oldest son, August A. Neff was born in 1900. They settled on a homestead 4 miles northwest of McClusky.

In addition to Aug. A. Neff, county chairman of the ASC committee, the Neff family included Henry, Mrs. Chas Sattler (Nettie), Mrs. R. Fiscus (Minnie), Charlie, McClusky; Mrs. Jack Schindler (Esther), Pickardville; Emil, Mrs. Edwin Berg (Linda), Mrs. Stephen (Emma) and Reuben.

The George Henry Neff family, brother of August arrived a few years later. Following is a historical sketch written by one of the sons, County Judge Chas. G. Neff of McClusky.

"George Henry Neff was born at Dinkel, Russia on October 5, 1866. He married Marie Katherine Rau in 1888.

Mr. and Mrs. George Henry Neff, together with their family of 4 children, Henry, Chas. G., Marie Katherina and Amelia left Dinkel, Russia for the United States on or about January 27th, 1902, the journey from Dinkel, Russia to New York City took about 45 days, of which about 21 days were spent crossing the Atlantic ocean and English channel.

The family arrived at Brunswick, Georgia on March 22, 1902, remained there about 6 months when they found that the climate was much too hot for white people. They decided to move to a cooler climate. Having no money they wrote to August Neff, brother of George Henry Neff who had migrated to the United States about the year 1898, asking him for funds to come to North Dakota.

As soon as the money for railroad fare was received the family pulled stakes and boarded a train for Denhoff, which was the end of the N. P. railroad, arriving at Denhoff in the fall of 1902.

The family of 5 moved in with the August Neff family for a short time until a more permanent place was found. One daughter, Amelia died during the time the family lived in Georgia.

A short time after arriving here the family moved in with Conrad Herr, a rancher in Harris township (a widower with four children). Mother kept house and father helped with chores and work on the ranch until the spring of 1903, when the family started work building a home on the family homestead about 13 miles northwest of McClusky, section 19 in Harris township.

While the house was being built the family lived with the Jacob Herr family across the road south of the family homestead. The Jacob Herr family had also homesteaded in that area several years before and were kind enough to take us in and assist us in the building of our home made of clay blocks which was a long and hard job. Most of the families built their houses of sod, while ours was made of clay blocks as follows.

Tests were made to find a good grade of yellow clay, then the top soil was removed and the yellow clay was dug up loaded on the wagon and hauled to the place where the house was to be built, then spread out in a circular patch about a foot thick and about 20 feet across. Then a load of straw was hauled in along side of the clay patch.

Next process was to haul in some water in barrels, now everything being ready for the manufacture of clay blocks. Not having any other means of mixing the clay it became the duty of us 3 children, Henry, Marie Katherina and myself, Chas. G. Neff, to take off our shoes and stockings (lucky for us we were spared this chore for up to now we did not own any shoes).

Next we had to go into this circular patch of clay and go around and around while father would add enough water and straw to make up a good binding material. After the clay, straw and water was thoroughly mixed and of the right consistency it was placed in wooden molds and formed into clay blocks of about 6x8x14" dry size. These blocks were left in the sun to dry.

This process was repeated from day to day until enough blocks were made to complete the house. This same mixture of clay, water and straw was used to make a mud to use in the laying of these clay blocks, and the covering of the entire outside and inside of the house the same as stucco and plaster is applied to homes of today. When completed the house was about 20 x 23 feet in size. Two rooms, dirt floor. The cost for the complete house for materials purchased was less than $30.00.

For heat in winter we used an old heater which had been used for target practice and was full of bullet holes. This made it very fascinating for us children to watch the fire through the bullet holes while my brother Henry sat in front of the stove constantly feeding in flax straw used for fuel during the first winter. If the straw was fed into the stove too fast it would puff, fill the house with smoke, a scolding from mother and a lot of coaxing to get the dog out from under the bed."

Only four members of the George Henry Neff family survive. They are in addition to Judge Neff, Edwin and Mrs. Fred Lauer of McClusky and Theodore.

The late Alexander Neff, half brother of August and George Henry, homesteaded 14 miles northwest of McClusky in 1903. He married Eva Holwagner and they had a family of ten children.

Back to the main Neff Family page.

This representation of the data is property of Robert J. Neff, for the website
Permission is granted to reprint this document for non-commercial use, provided this notice remain as part of the document. Copyright 2006